At least 27 migrants died after their dinghy capsized on Wednesday while trying to cross the Channel from France to Britain, a local mayor said.
According to fishermen, more migrants left France's northern shores than usual to take advantage of calm sea conditions, although the water was bitterly cold. One fisherman called the rescue services after seeing an empty dinghy and people floating motionless nearby.
Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart told BFM television the death toll now stood at 27, minutes after another mayor put the tally at 24.
The local coast guard said they could not yet confirm the number of deaths, adding that rescue services had found around 20 people in the water of whom only two were conscious.